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Eugene attorney addresses Patriot Act at local event
Lauren Regan and others discussed the government�s use of informants and intimidation tactics Thursday
By Susan Goodwin
News Reporter
February 27, 2006

Attorney Lauren Regan gives a speech about federal grand juries, paid informants and the Bush administration's war on terror at the First United Methodist Church on Thursday night.

Growing concern over the infringement of civil liberties by the USA Patriot Act and the Bush administration�s increasing use of covert interrogation techniques caused local attorney Lauren Regan to organize "Grand Juries and Snitches and Spies, Oh My!"

She hosted the event on Thursday night at the First United Methodist Church. The upcoming Congressional vote to renew the Patriot Act and the federal grand jury hearing in Eugene on March 16 were also reasons Regan organized the event, she said.

Regan discussed the recent series of indictments against environmental activists connected to the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front groups. Their constitutional right to a fair trial before their peers was infringed upon when federal Attorney General Alberto Gonzales� called them "ecoterrorists" in pre-trial publicity, she said.

"People were basically frozen with fear about not knowing what was going on," Regan said. "I really strongly believe that knowledge is power."

Regan is an attorney with the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Eugene. She is involved in federal environmental litigation, civil rights cases and criminal defense, particularly for environmental activists. The educational forum was intended to inform Eugene citizens about the current political climate in the United States, particularly concerning the war on terrorism and the government�s tactics used to fight the war, Regan said.

"The war on terror allows the Bush administration to keep the U.S. in a perpetual state of war," Regan said, "because instead of a defined enemy, the war is against an abstract concept that the administration defines."

Forest activist and event speaker Kim Marks spoke about "security culture" and the steps activist groups can take to make sure their group is not infiltrated by government informants.

Marks also urged audience members who knew someone subpoenaed for a grand jury to not stop talking to the person.

"Don�t change your behavior," Marks said, "because it increases suspicion and paranoia ... don�t get yourself or others thrown in jail."

A major topic of the forum was the use of covert investigative and interrogative tactics such as paid informants and grand juries.

Informants are people who are either paid for their testimony or have made a deal with the government to receive a reduced sentence in exchange for their testimony against other people, Regan said.

Grand juries are juries of 23 citizens who have the authority to indict a person based on testimony from subpoenaed witnesses and the prosecution�s evidence. Neither the person being indicted nor an attorney for the witness are allowed to be in the room, Regan said.

A woman who has been called to testify in front of several grand juries over the past five years also spoke at the forum.

Carla Martinez discussed testifying in front of two grand juries and said she had felt threatened and intimidated by the experience.

"The best tool against intimidation is knowledge and knowing what our rights are," Martinez said. "It�s important to remember this when getting involved in social movements because when social movements start happening, they are repressed."

"Silencing ourselves never works in these cases," Martinez said.

Regan said the federal government uses paid informants in approximately 95 percent of all felony drug cases, and the use of informants to penetrate activist groups interested in social change is also increasing.

"It�s difficult to know the extent of the government�s use of informants," Regan said. "There aren�t many reliable statistics about it because the government doesn�t have to release them."

Regan said she finds her statistics through Internet research and nongovernmental organizations that research the use of informants and the use of prosecution in getting convictions.

The presentation was part of a 10-day roadshow that has traveled up and down the West Coast, beginning Feb. 18 in Portland, and ending Feb. 27 in Arcata, Calif.

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Eugene attorney addresses Patriot Act at local event

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